We’re used to being nickeled-and-dimed by our utilities providers. But all those hidden penny-grubbing fees tacked onto bottom of our bills are a bargain compared to the shock one Texas woman received upon opening last month’s electric bill. Kristin Harriger’s tab came to almost $1.4 million.
Sure, it had been hot in Abilene, with the central Texas town welcoming temperatures greater than 90 degrees for more than half of May. And Harriger is the first to admit her home isn’t the most energy-efficient. But considering her previous bill had been $100.78, she expected something similar. Not one reading 13,000 times higher, asking for a total of $1,381,783.92.
She immediately jumped on the phone with her electricity supplier, Dallas-based Potentia Energy, to inquire about the sudden and extreme price hike. “It was either computer error or human error, they said. They said they would look into it, and send me a new bill right away,” Harriger told the Abilene Reporter-News. Within four minutes, she told the newspaper, the energy company was taking steps to look into her bill.
It turns out, with a closer look at the bill, that Harriger had been charged 100,000¢ per kilowatt-hour — $1,000 for every unit of energy she consumed. Potentia Energy’s website puts the cost for a typical kWh in the Abilene area at 9.2¢. Unless her house was running off the well-aged personal reserve oil made from the remains of the endangered Mediterranean monk seal, such a fee is highly exorbitant. The bill even calculated the late fee if (but really, they meant when) Harriger was unable to pay her bill: $66,000.
The Reporter-News spoke to the energy company, Potentia, which explained that the bill had already been sent to the company that prints and mails bills when it was flagged by an internal audit. The company confirmed that Harriger wouldn’t be responsible for the shocking sum and that a new (presumably more accurate) bill was on its way to her house. While this story had a quick and easy resolution for Harriger – most likely due to the million-dollar sticker shock – some homeowners do get the runaround from their utility companies after receiving an unreasonable bill. According to Bankrate, your state’s public utility commission can help, as can the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates.